The Apsara Authority will be summoned to the National Assembly next month to defend its stance in an embittered spat over revenue collected from ticket sales at Angkor Archaeological Park, according to opposition party lawmakers.
Apsara, which manages the historical site of Angkorian temples, will be asked to answer for alleged irregularities and an underreporting of ticket sales, said Ho Vann, chairman of the assembly’s Anti-Corruption Commission.
Van added that if the authority overseeing Cambodia’s largest tourist draw will not come to the capital to account for its for-profit revenue-sharing deal with Sokimex, then he will lead the 10-member commission to Siem Reap.
“We cannot keep quiet. We are the Anti-Corruption Commission,” Vann said.
Apsara director Bun Narith could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Apsara, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, has outsourced ticketing for the ancient temple complex to Sokimex since 1999.
According to the opposition party, the government isn’t getting a fair cut of the tourist revenues.
But critics of the ticketing scheme say that simply bringing Apsara representatives to testify won’t clarify the issue anymore than the three-hour grilling of the tourism minister last year.
“Just calling them to the talk with the committee is not enough. There needs to be an investigation going to the field and seeing how the tickets are actually collected,” said opposition lawmaker Son Chhay.
Last year, Siem Reap received 5.02 million visitors, according to the provincial tourism office. But Apsara reported only 2.05 million ticket sales for the year, with a $59.3 million income.
“I think almost all tourists that come to Cambodia go to see Angkor Wat,” said Khieu Thy, president of the Angkor Tourist Guide Association.
According to Apsara’s 2014 tallies, just over 5,000 tourists visited the archaeological park on average per day. But Thy said tour guides at the site anticipate far more visitors.
During high season between November and March, at least 10,000 people flood the temples daily, according to Thy. During the low season, guides expect 4,000 or more visitors.
“It’s a very sensitive issue. You’ve got Son Chhay in the assembly saying there’s more money than what was reported and Apsara saying that’s not true,” he said.
“But it would be very easy to check who is right and who is wrong if an independent organisation counted.”